The injury bug bites Parkside yet again, but it’s freshman Jeremy Saffold’s 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists that help clinch the weekend sweep.
UW-Parkside (3-3) hosted non-conference opponent Bemidji State (4-1) at DeSimone Gymnasium in Kenosha Saturday afternoon. This was the final game slated for the men’s basketball Slam Dunk Diabetes Classic.
Following a comeback victory over Grace Bible College in the opening day of action, the Rangers closed out the tournament boasting a 2-0 performance capped off by a 78-65 win in convincing fashion. As the Rangers get healthier, they enter into conference play Thursday on a positive note.
“Not having to play guys out of position allows us to better use their strengths,” said Parkside head coach Luke Reigel. “The young guys are getting more experience which is putting the program in the right direction.”
As it had for the first five games, injuries piled up quick as forwards Kevin Senechalle and Dwayne Edwards each suffered reoccurring ankle injuries limiting their minutes.
Despite being shorthanded in the front-court, the forwards accounted for 15 of the first 17 Parkside points. Senechalle epitomized physical toughness as he fought through the pain to muster 11 points in only 18 minutes.
“He’s a battler,” cited Reigel. “Senechalle’s an inside presence with versatility that allows him to score in all different ways.”
Both squads shot dismal percentages from the field, but the Rangers used their slight edge to hold a 38-33 advantage at halftime. The Division II institutions each produced identical 16.7 (1-of-6) three-point percentages and locked horns on their way to ten lead changes within the first 20 minutes.
Featuring a slow tempo clash of the bigs, neither team scored a fast break point in the first half.
Poor shot selection by the Rangers opened up a 10-2 run to start the second half for Bemidji State. Forward Patrick Cassidy was responsible for six of those ending his afternoon with 13 points.
Capitalizing off Bemidji foul trouble, the Rangers made sure their possessions ended with either points in the paint or shots from the charity stripe. Sophomore Grant Johnson took over late with eight points in as many minutes to close out the game.
Johnson finished with 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists to go along with 9-of-10 shooting from the line.
With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Saffold buried a three from the left wing to solidify a commanding nine-point lead. The talented freshman hit Parkside’s only two shots from behind the arc.
“It was a tough win but we got the job done,” assured Saffold, who also added an impressive block denying guard Seth Haake of a layup. “With each game we just keep making strides to get us where we want to be.”
Haake had himself a stellar game for the Beavers racking up 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists, but also led all players with five turnovers. UWP exemplified offensive efficiency on their end committing only ten turnovers on the afternoon.
Junior forward Zach Blesich was a valuable commodity in the low-post totaling seven points, seven boards, and three assists. He also chipped in a steal and a block.
Sophomore Sam Katula came off the bench for the second straight game to amass eight points and three assists for the Rangers. Devon Irven and Steve Jaskulske also provided key contributions in a reserve role.
Set for the third of a seven game home-stand, the Rangers return to action Thursday as they open conference play hosting Rockhurst University. Riding a streak of two wins, they’ll attempt to make it three with a 7:30 pm tip-off at DeSimone Gymnasium.
According to Reigel, “This was a nice achievement but the competition level is only going up from here.”